Although we seldom care to admit it, every Greek chapter has those various “bad apple” members. If not monitored and confronted, a bad member can decrease the productivity of your members and even ruin the reputation of your entire chapter. When dealing with a troublesome member, don’t forget your resources. Talk to your active members and executive members, as well as your chapter adviser. And if the situation requires, a chat with your national headquarters is never out of the question.
Identifying troublesome members is a hard task, made harder by the fact that a single occurrence of bad behavior may not reflect the member’s true intentions and potential. However, there are a few red-flag behaviors that, more times than not, signal a need for executive intervention:
- Not paying dues and still participating in events
- Repeated bad behavior at public and chapter events
- Poor academic performance (and a low GPA)
- Severe addiction or abuse of alcohol or drugs
When identifying these members, be sure to keep in mind that one of the responsibilities of the chapter is to help and benefit its members. (however, this doesn’t mean babying a member or looking the other way when a problem arises). If a member is identified, the chapter should act with discretion and respect, and keep the best interest of the member in mind. At the same time, its important to remind members that they too have responsibilities to the chapter, and they can’t expect to benefit without giving back.
Not Paying Dues
Without money, things can’t be done. Thus, having a high collection rate is extremely important for every chapter. Members who don’t pay their dues are just as destructive as members who behave rudely or drink excessively. While exceptions exists, such as members who loose their jobs or have financial trouble in their family, the majority of these situations are signs of carelessness and disrespect by the member.
Many chapters have in place a process for dealing with members who don’t pay their dues. Normally, this is the responsibility of the chapter’s treasurer. However, if matters worsen and the member is far in debt with no intention of paying, it may be time for the president and chapter adviser to step in. It also may be time to say goodbye to the member and bring in a debt collection company on behalf of the chapter. While this may seem extreme, sometimes its better for the chapter and the member to severe ties than to continue the relationship of “collector” and “payee”. That is not how your members should consider themselves in the chapter.
For these members who are the exceptions, there are many options to ensure their dues are collected and the member stays in the chapter. Many times, a payment plan is all that is needed, allowing the member to pay small amounts over a specified period of time. Other options include reducing the member’s dues and limiting their activity in the chapter, finding a financial sponsor (usually a chapter alumni) for the member, or finding a scholarship for the member (from your nationals or chapter). In these cases, be sure to remember that while dues are the lifeblood of the chapter, members are just as important. And if the member is worth it, you should always work your hardest and exhaust every option to keep them in the chapter.
Repeated Bad Behavior in Public
By far the broadest category with the most severe consequences is member behavior. It only takes one member and one action to taint a chapter’s reputation, or worse, revoke the chapter’s charter and loose their place on campus.
Members in trouble with the law, who are abusive or offensive to others, or who participate in fighting must be approached and dealt with immediately. As these actions are very broad and can range from mild to extreme, the consequences of such actions are at the discretion of the executive board or chapter. For minor offenses, social probation or fines may be enough. However, extreme cases may require expulsion from the chapter or membership deactivation. When deciding on a consequence, be sure to take into account the member’s behavior over their entire membership, and consider different punishments over member deactivation. If the situation is so serious that it involves campus administration, don’t hesitate to contact your national headquarters or regional adviser for help.
Poor Academic Performance and Low GPA
Every Greek fraternity and sorority have strict GPA requirements for their members as academic excellence is one of the most important aspects of the Greek community. While the social aspect of fraternities and sororities is a motivating factor for members to stay active, your chapter should also stress the importance of academics. You are, after all, in college to receive an education (not do keg stands). Members should encourage each other to work hard and perform well in their classes, if not for the chapter, then for their personal future success. Additionally, the chapter itself should encourage academic excellence through the use of study hours, peer tutors, course notes, a strict scholarship program, and a chapter-wide emphasis on school.
For members with repeatedly low GPAs, penalties for such should serve to improve their grades, not just punish them. Fining a member for a low GPA won’t do much to motivate them in the next quarter or semester. However, assigning more study hours with a peer tutor will help your member understand the subject and devote more time to their classes. In rare situations, extreme penalties may be needed, such as a member who parties too much and studies too little. Social probation is always a good way to start with these members, but remember to not only deprive them of what they enjoy, but also provide them with tools to succeed academically.
Severe addiction or abuse of alcohol or drugs
As a chapter, your members are your family, and, as a family, your members should feel comfortable talking about their problems and seeking help. Every member of your chapter should be open to listening and helping other members. They should also know how to identify when a member is in need of such help and who to talk to. As executive members, make sure you are not only open to those who have problems, but also to those members who suspect another’s addiction or abuse.
Dealing with alcohol or drug addiction and abuse in a member is a difficult thing. Of the entire process, the most complicated part is approaching the individual. Remember that many times an individual may not think they have a problem. Additionally, remember that an individual can be abusing alcohol or drugs without having an addiction (they are two very different issues). After approaching the member, the next step is to find help. Some members may simply require a social network to keep them in order, while others may require a substance abuse and addiction program. Additionally, for some members the best option may be leaving the fraternity or sorority, even if they have done nothing wrong. Remember that in these severe cases, the priority is the health of your member, not necessarily that of your chapter.
Finally, when dealing with alcohol or drug problems in your chapter, do not shy away from your resources. Communicate with your chaper adviser, regional adviser and national headquarters. Use discretion if you’re not sure of the severity of the situation, but be open and honest about the problem. Additionally, every college and university has resources (and usually an entire office or department) for substance abuse and addiction. Use these resources, teach them to your members, and refer back whenever you’re unsure.